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Tuesday August 9th

UNC baseball loses at home to North Carolina A&T, 7-6

Outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) goes to field a groundball during a baseball game against North Carolina A&T. UNC lost 6-7 at home on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
Buy Photos Outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) goes to field a groundball during a baseball game against North Carolina A&T. UNC lost 6-7 at home on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

The UNC baseball team (21-12, 7-8 ACC) fell to North Carolina A&T (12-19, 1-8 Big South) in a 7-6 loss at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday night.

What happened?

After two quick innings for both teams, the Tar Heels were the first to get a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the third. That runner was sophomore first baseman Hunter Stokely, who reached base on a ground rule double to the far corner of left field. 

Sophomore catcher Eric Grintz was up next,  as he reached first base on a walk to put runners at first and second. This brought up first-year Vance Honeycutt, who lined a sac fly to center field to advance Stokely and Grintz. On a single from left fielder Angel Zarate, the two Tar Heels scored to bring North Carolina ahead to a 2-0 lead.

A&T was quick to respond, and did so with force. The top of the fourth inning saw the Aggies score six runs on six hits and one error. 

The highlight of all this? A grand slam.

In a dramatic turn of events, sophomore left fielder Camden Jackson reached first on a bunt to load the bases, bringing up first baseman Cort Maynard. Maynard made the Tar Heels pay for the misplay on the bunt, as his grand slam off the top of the scoreboard brought the score to a decisive 5-2. 

The Aggies still weren’t done. A pair of hits from sophomore Alex Reyna and first-year Canyon Brown would score one more, to elevate the score to 6-2 after the top of the fourth.

This score didn’t budge until the bottom of the sixth inning, which saw the Tar Heels bounce back with three runs on a double and two bombs. Zarate started the inning with a line-drive double to right center field, and was subsequently scored by junior shortstop Danny Serretti as he took A&T’s Michael Crayton yard on a hanging outside pitch. 

Sophomore third baseman Mac Horvath tacked on another run for North Carolina, with an emphatic home run blasted 409 feet to deep left field. This brought the Tar Heels within one run of the Aggies, who still led 6-5.

Ultimately, after three more innings, this margin would remain the same. Despite a solo shot from Osuna in the eighth, the Aggies had padded their score by driving in a speedy Xavier Bussey on a single by Alec Seaton just the inning before. Despite their late-game heroics, the Tar Heels came up one run short, with a final score of 7-6. 

Who stood out? 

A&T’s Maynard was the clear standout of the game, as his grand slam lifted the Aggies to their early lead. This marks Maynard’s eighth home run of this season, and it came at a critical time for A&T.

For UNC, the bats of Zarate, Serretti and Horvath proved to be critical to the Tar Heels’ offensive production. Zarate’s single in the bottom of the third scored the first two runs of the game, and his double in the bottom of the sixth put him in position to score yet again. Serretti’s two-run home run, followed by Horvath’s solo home run in the sixth inning were critical in UNC’s attempts to claw back into the game.

When was it decided?

The game was essentially decided in the top of the fourth, when UNC allowed 11 different Aggie batters step up to the plate. This six-run inning was monstrous for the Tar Heels, forcing North Carolina to play on their heels for the rest of the game. Despite three home runs by UNC after this point, the Tar Heels couldn’t manage to bounce back from this rough half-inning. 

Why does it matter?

After falling out of the NCAA rankings following the series loss to Louisville, this game is the culmination of a rough skid for a UNC baseball program that’s dropped nine of its last 12 games. More than anything, it illuminates yet again one of the program’s biggest pitfalls this season — a lack of reliable starting pitching. 

UNC had to rely on five different pitchers in Tuesday’s game. In the fourth inning, UNC used a combination of Shaddon Peavyhouse, Shawn Rapp and Kyle Mott to little avail. If North Carolina is to finish the season out strong, the Tar Heels need to identify a reliable pitcher that can step into the starting role for UNC.

When do they play next?

The Diamond Heels will host Georgia Tech on Friday in the first game of their home series. The game is set to start at 6 p.m.

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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